With the end of the year approaching fast, I’m sure I’m not alone in taking a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and what it’s meant to me both personally and professionally.
Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those terrible articles titled “10 things you need to do to be a success in 2019” but I did want to share something that’s helped me, with the hope that it will help you too.
By way of context, 2018 has been a challenge. I work in a traditional industry, that faces a severe skills shortage and, if I’m honest, a distinct lack of imagination about how to solve it.
My own organisation is not without its frustrations, and our own attempts to be creative and innovative in the way that we approach the development of our people – I’m Head of Learning – can often feel like they just aren’t impacting quickly enough. It always feels like we should be doing more.
And on a personal note, earlier in the year my mum was diagnosed, quite unexpectedly, with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After a short illness she passed away in May.
As the year continued I think it’s fair to say that all the above started to take a toll. I began to “leak” as a result of my frustrations.
So, what to do? Well, as someone fortunate enough to have both a coach and a mentor, I thought I should practice what I preach and look for some support.
What became apparent very quickly was an appreciation of the impact of my mums passing and an understanding that I was suddenly much more conscious of how little time I felt I had to do the things I wanted – both personally and professionally.
My coach helped me tease this out, and more importantly, start to think about what I wanted to do about it. As with all good coaches, Lesley is very adept at knowing just how much to press and exactly when to be quiet.
What began to emerge was a set of principles that I could apply to my thinking. A form of guidance that helped align what I’m trying to achieve with the person I want to be. It made me wonder how many of us feel pulled by the disconnect between our own values and those of the organisations we serve?
Over a number of sessions, I’ve begun to shape those principles into a checklist. A simple way to ensure I’m being true to myself and remaining on track.
They are quickly becoming a very easy way of explaining who I am and what I value. I wonder how many of them you can relate to? Here goes…
• Intent is everything. Do or do not. There is no try.
The keen eyed amongst you will know that the second part of the above is a quote by that well known management development coach, Yoda!
What I’ve discovered, with the help of my coach, is the important part that honesty and accountability play in my life. I hadn’t quite realised how frustrated I get with people I perceive to be flaky!
How much of what we do is dependant on the efforts of others? Yet, how often do we let people off when they tell us “they’ll try”.
Let’s face it, we all know “I’ll try” is code for “I’m not going to do it but I don’t want to have that conversation right now…”
Interestingly, that led to one of my other principles. The buy-in and support we often need to get things done is born of an ability to engage people and bring them with you. Something I happen to be pretty good at! Hence…
• Play to your strengths, if you’re good, you can be great
No-one can be good at everything but many of us try. I’ve come to realise there’s a reason I do what I do.
What my coach has helped me to do, is figure out how my particular strengths apply to the things I’m trying to achieve and how best to apply them. The de-cluttering has had a marvellous effect.
How was your last appraisal? Did it focus on helping you become fantastic at the things you’re good at, or average where you’re mediocre?
And finally, the most personal and challenging of my principles:
• Know yourself: be present, be comfortable being you
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a people-pleaser and an extrovert. I’m very “dog”. As a senior member of my organisation I’ve often felt this needed to be stifled. That somehow it was inappropriate.
The simple truth I’ve come to realise is that anything other than the genuine me is a lie. As a father, a husband and a son, as well as a leader, I owe it to those around me to be authentic.
Whilst I can modulate the amount of “me” I present, the version you get will always be real.
How much of your time do you spend trying to be something other than that which you are? Take it from me, you never know how much time you have with those around you – don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not.
All of the above is very personal to me but, I hope, strikes a chord with you. Life is short, regardless of what you hope to achieve. You might think you’re not sure of what you want, or where you want to be. I’d suggest you might just need a bit of help parting the wood from the trees.
There’s a Buddhist saying “the path to true enlightenment starts by returning to the place you never left”. Whilst I would never claim to have achieved enlightenment, my coach has certainly helped me find the path to me.